Scoped Sharps 1874 Buffalo Rifle

This 1874 Sharps rifle is a great example of a been-there, done-that authentic western buffalo rifle. It was shipped from Sharps in 1879 with double set triggers, open sights, and a medium-weight .45 caliber barrel, but rebuilt by a Cheyenne gunsmith with a much heavier barrel in .40-100 caliber, and fitted with a Rice telescopic sight in a free-floating mount. While this was built just too late to have been used in the heyday of the slaughter of the wild buffalo, it is a fine example of the rifle configuration used by serious hunters and target shooters alike at that time.

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[ Sharps 1874 Buffalo Rifle ] Hi guys, thanks for tuning in to another video on Forgotten I’m Ian McCollum, and I am here today at the James Julia Auction House taking a look at some of the guns That they’re going to be selling in their Upcoming spring of 2018 Firearms Auction. And today we have a really cool piece of history. This is a Sharps Model of 1874 That has been refitted with a new barrel And a gigantic telescopic sight By a gunsmith out of Cheyenne, Wyoming. And this is a really cool piece of Western American history, kind of embodied in a firearm. Now the Sharps rifle company first got its notoriety with … single-shot cavalry carbines, And also used as marksman’s rifles, during the Civil War. And at that point the rifles look very similar to this basic style, Same sort of action, but they used paper cartridges. Well, over the ensuing decades the Sharps Company updated this design, And set it up to use the new metallic cartridges. And Sharps became a very popular target and hunting rifle brand. In fact I’ve seen suggestions that the term ”sharpshooter” Comes from competition shooters using Sharps rifles. Not entirely sure that that’s accurate, I can see it coming from other places as well, But even the supposition really shows you just how much of a reputation Sharps rifles had. In fact the Sharps Company had a specific Creedmoor Model Named after the shooting range in New York, the Creedmoor Range, Were some of the major matches in the United States were held. Now this particular rifle is a Model of 1874, which is a little bit of a misnomer Because they were actually introduced in 1871. However the company introduced a new action, the Sharps-Borchardt rifle, in 1878. And when they did that they retro-actively renamed the previous model. They didn’t want to call it like the ”old model”, because they did want to continue selling them, And they apparently chose 1874 as an appropriate date. So despite the fact that the rifle had been in production for several years before then, The 1874 is what it became officially named.

Now this particular one we know from Sharps Company records, which survived, We know that it was shipped in 1879 to Sharps’ major distributor in New York. And it was actually shipped with a medium-weight .45 calibre barrel, With a double set trigger like this, and with open iron sights. At some point in its history, probably not long after that, It was actually refitted with a new barrel and this scope By a gunsmith in Cheyenne, Wyoming, who has signed the barrel. And in this configuration it’s really an iconic example of the American buffalo rifle. Of course, buffalo hunting became quite the tremendously huge business, mostly in the 1870s. By the time this rifle got rebuilt in Cheyenne It was really on the tail end of commercial buffalo hunting, Because, quite frankly, almost all of them had been killed by that point. By the late 1880s there … were literally only a few hundred buffalo remaining On public lands in the United States. Really quite the historical crime. The buffalo had been hunted at first for … commercial purposes for fur. Not really so much for meat, the meat was usually just left to rot on the plains. They were hunted like initially for fur, but then also as a Very literal and conscious act of warfare against the Plains Indian tribes. There were not a whole lot of US Army soldiers conducting the Indian Wars in the West. And one of the tactics they used when they were … basically unable to have the manpower To successfully track down and corner and fight the various Indian tribes, Was they just went after their sources of food, namely the buffalo. And the military actively encouraged the wholesale slaughter of buffalo as A way to deprive the Indians of food, and force them to come into the reservation system. The slaughter of buffalo was literally so widespread and so tremendous That afterwards there was actually a … substantial income to be made By settlers salvaging buffalo skeletons off of the plains and grinding them up for use as fertiliser. That’s how many skeletons were simply lying on the plains where they had been shot. At any rate, this probably was not a rifle that had a direct specific use in that campaign, Because it was simply manufactured too late. But it does have a lot of the same characteristics of the rifles That some of those commercial hunters would use. So let’s take a closer look at those. The optic on this rifle was manufactured by a fellow by the name of W.C. Rice of Warren, Ohio. And it is typical of early telescopic sights like this.

The reticle is just a plain simple crosshair, and it is mounted in a free-recoiling mount. Now these are often spring loaded, this one is not, But the whole scope slides back and forth in its mount. Now this one has seen quite a lot of use and it rattles around a little bit, not entirely stable. They would have been better originally, this one is like 150 years old now. But the idea here was that when you fired, the rifle would tend to come backwards. The scope, simply because of inertia, would want to stay in place. And … if you had the scope permanently fixed to the rifle where it couldn’t move, You stood a pretty good risk of damaging the … scope over time. These early scopes were pretty fragile. So by having it free-floating the rifle could cycle backwards, The scope would be able to float forward in its mount, And the impact, the energy transfer, into the scope would be much reduced or softened. This also has the advantage on this particular rifle of allowing you to push the Optic forward here to allow more easy access to The breech of the rifle for loading and unloading. The Sharps was of course a single-shot rifle. This particular one has been chambered for the .40-100 Sharps cartridge. That was a slightly necked cartridge, Actually it and the .40-90 Sharps are the identical case, just two different loadings. As is typical, the first number there (.40) is the bore diameter, so it’s a .40 calibre cartridge. And the second number is the … black powder charge that it’s loaded with. So .40-90 is 90 grains of powder, and that was put behind a 370 grain bullet, Which gave a muzzle velocity of 1,450 to 1,475 feet per second. And that’s quite the hefty cartridge. That would have been an excellent big game cartridge with a lot of penetrating power. The .40-100 was the same case with 10 grains more powder charge in it, And a substantially lighter bullet, the .40-100 was loaded with a 190 grain bullet. I don’t have any specific muzzle velocity numbers for it, But it would have been at least a couple of hundred feet per second higher. That would have been the Express, or high-velocity version of the cartridge. Better at long range, because the higher velocity meant less drop. However it probably wouldn’t have as much penetrating capacity On heavy-skinned game like buffalo.

The windage on this scope mount can be adjusted with this little screw right here, Which slides it in its base. Elevation interestingly, is actually controlled at the front by this rotating wheel, Which has a cammed surface on this side. You can see the notches right in there. So the more you turn it, the higher it lifts, and that increases your elevation. There’s a screw in the body of the scope, right there on its rail, That prevents it from going too far backwards. So before each shot, what you would have done is pull the scope Back to its rear-most position, and that’s where it would be zeroed. And then when you fired, The scope could travel conceivably as far forward as that. Now I can also remove the eyepiece here, and actually take the scope entirely off the rifle. Like so. That allows us to see the manufacturing marks on the plate here. You can see Rice, and then Warren, Ohio. I’m pointing the scope directly into a light here so that you can see the crosshair. That is the reticle, just a very fine crosshair. Not a lot of magnification on this scope, but honestly the clarity is pretty remarkable. It … looks a little bit better in person than it does here on camera, but I’m impressed by how good it still is after, well, 150 years. Removing the scope also allows us to see the gunsmith’s … signature there on the barrel, P. Bergersen, who was out of Cheyenne, Wyoming. Kind of interesting, … it looks to me like it was at some point fitted with a tang sight as well. You can see that this screw hole has been filled, and when they drilled or filled that They actually moved, re-stamped, one of the serial number digits so you can still see it. It’s 156608. And there is a little marking on the side of the receiver, Sharps Rifle Company, and a patent date, Double set triggers like this would have been very common On a … match rifle or a good shooter’s hunting rifle. The idea here is you pull the rear trigger, and it has quite a heavy take-up. And once you have pulled the rear trigger all the way, You can see the front trigger moved just slightly. Now the amount of pressure required to release the front trigger is just a tiny, tiny bit.

So this acts … basically as a safety device. You get what is literally a hair trigger, but not until you fully pull the rear one. Meaning that the rifle won’t go off accidentally or unintentionally. To me the most interesting rifles are the ones that aren’t brand new out of the box, But rather ones that have a bunch of history to them, And show it, while still being fully functional. And to me this is kind of a perfect example of something in that realm. The … customisation, the refitting in Cheyenne of this rifle I think is very interesting. And just the pattern that it was made into, a very heavy-barrelled target or hunting rifle With a very early optical sight, which clearly has had a tremendous amount of use. I think it’s a really cool rifle. If you agree and you’d like to have this one yourself, Take a look at the description text below. You’ll find a link there to Julia’s catalogue page for this rifle, Where you can check out their description, and their pictures, and their price estimates, and Everything else you might want to know about it. You can place a bid either online through their website, or live here at their auction. Thanks for watching.

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